By Will Kenney
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
As everyone knows by now, COVID-19 has taken over the world and caused a global pandemic since it was announced by the World Health Organization in March. All nonessential businesses are closed, and places that generally have large gatherings have come to a grinding halt.
So, what does this mean for schools?
From students to superintendents and everyone in between, there has been brand-new methods to keep on pace for the 2019-20 school year. Classes were forced to be moved to an online setting where teachers create notes, quizzes and exams for students to continue with their work.
“We post videos to Schoology for the students to learn from. It really doesn’t feel like teaching at all,” said Kris Regan, a sixth grade special education teacher in the Brockport Central School District.
This is an example of what teachers use to communicate with their coworkers and students to make sure everything is on the right track and remains consistent.
Regan, like many others, has never experienced anything like what is happening in the world right now. With as many question marks as there are right now, it’s unknown what the rest of the academic year will hold and what is ahead for the next academic year in September.
“The lack of face-to-face interaction is not good for the relationship between teachers and students,” Regan said. “It’s very different when you aren’t present with each other every day. I’m hopeful we go back to normal school in September.”
According to Erin Richards of USA Today, “Some experts see younger children poised to bounce back better than adolescents and teens, who are going to face some stress.”
Teachers and students alike are trying to get through the grind of doing their work as they’re on their own for the most part. It is unclear when things like schools can get back on normal schedules considering the peculiar circumstances the world is in. News from the major outlets come out seemingly every day of dates that would be loosening the rules of quarantine getting pushed back.
Because there’s little to no hope of school returning this school year with quarantine extending through mid-May (for now), it is more than likely to be finished remotely. This means that final exams will also have to be held online, which is less than ideal. There’s a lot of work ahead for each state to figure out how to conduct the remainder of the school year.
So, how many schools are participating in remote classroom settings in the U.S.? Well, as of March 31 Education Week said at least 124,000 schools (99%) have been closed, with that number presumably higher now.
School can be held on multiple academic platforms. Some of which are:
•Zoom: An app used to video chat with students and colleagues in large groups. Probably the most popular tool being used in quarantine right now; almost too popular, because people are hacking into some meetings and disrupting learning processes.
•Student/teacher portals: Some of these include Schoology, Blackboard, Canvas and other similar sites. These services allow students and teachers to exchange work and receive grades through the site. Most schools have been using this approach to the adaptation of their education.
•Study platforms: Study sites are useful to either use as a class period or to further explain something that may have been brought up in class. Kahn Academy, Quizlet and other similar sites are used to expand the learning experience of students currently.
It isn’t all bad news when it comes to learning in quarantine, however, and positives can be taken away from remote learning.
Melanie Asmar wrote on Chalkbeat, “Students are discovering new ways to learn. Teachers are inventing new ways to deliver lessons and assess whether students understood them.”
The sudden transition to remote learning this year can be good for schools by giving them other options for classes. The methods of teaching classes in such a way are being learned now and can possibly be applied in years to come if they’re successful. It also helps by giving students more freedom in allocating their time – although that can be good or bad.
“I think we’ve all learned a lot by being forced online. Not only is school being figured out, but people are coming up with alternatives to big events in life like graduations and weddings,” Regan said.
School is at the forefront of improvisation during quarantine; however, teachers and students aren’t the only people getting creative for the learning process. Everybody is exploring new ways to have their traditional large gatherings. There have been headlines made for Zoom happy hours and even families driving their cars to a large parking lot, parking in a circle, and having a full-on family dinner physical-distancing style. Some people are beginning to think outside the box and create unique ideas to still be around others and socialize while remaining safe.
People are also taking this time alone to focus on bettering their personal lives and wellbeing. All over social media, people are seen doing creative workouts to get their exercise in; and people are seen in parks and whatnot going out on more walks and runs (socially distanced, of course).
It’s remarkable to see how communities are responding to such a devastating time due to COVID-19, but it appears that, when everything is all said and done, the world will come out as a better place.
Niagara Frontier Publications works with the Niagara University communication studies department to publish the capstone work of students in CMS 120A-B.
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